Last week, I had the opportunity to speak with Joe Stickney, drummer for Bear In Heaven. Their new album, I Love You, It’s Cool is due out April 3rd on Dead Oceans and Hometapes. With soft vocals mashed with lively, reverb drenched synths, I Love You, It’s Cool is an excellent extension of Bear In Heaven’s electronic indie rock sound. They’re playing numerous SXSW shows, and then going on a national tour. Catch them here.
Frontier Psychiatrist: It seems like 2012 is going to be a big year for Bear In Heaven, with your next album I Love You, It’s Cool to be released next month, a handful of high profile SXSW shows and a following big tour. Are you ready to become an indie household name?
Joe Stickney: We just busted our asses, and it would be a shame if nothing comes out of it. I’m pretty sure we already are a household name, with indie wives crocheting patterns with “Home is where Bear In Heaven plays,” or some shit.
Honestly, who knows where all this leads. People have a short attention span, so I’ll be happy if we have a good tour with good turnouts.
FP: Let’s talk about the record, while BIH has always had an 80’s synth-sound, I Love You, It’s Cool is most firmly rooted in that decade, sounding like Depeche Mode, Duran Duran and Kraftwerk all at the same time. Where do your influences come from as songwriters? Did you set out to make a particular record?
JS: Thanks for that, I would agree. As far as setting out to make a record that sounds like a particular thing, I would say that all those influences bounce around in our head and are bound to come out. I wouldn’t say there was any direct goal of mimicking or making a particular sound, it’s more a product of ideas that kick around in the back of your mind and picking the pieces that work.
FP: The name I Love You, It’s Cool is interesting to me, it sounds like you’re trying to tell people not to worry or something along those lines. It could also go the other way, however, that it’s just cool that I love you. What’s the inspiration for the album title?
JS: It was written as a nice note from our former band mate Sadek [Bazarra]. He drew up some weird-ass drawings with captions, and one of them said, “I love you, it’s cool.” Initially, I think he meant it that “it is cool that I love you,” but I have thought about it in the way you mentioned, sort of like a reassurance. I think that comes from the tone of the album. It’s a more positive album, more than our last album, but it’s not entirely positive. There’s a lot of stuff on there that deals with troubles in relationships and things like that, so the album title takes on a more reassuring tone in that space
FP: Reassuring is a good thing to be, it’s not something most indie rock bands want to convey.
JS: Yeah, probably more antagonizing.
FP: Antagonizing or straight-up complaining.
JS: [Laughs] We try not to complain too much. Well, we complain all the time; we just try to keep it to ourselves.
FP: Thanks for that. Were there other working titles for the album?
JS: We thought about a few others, one of them being “Greater Elevators,” which is a lyric from the album, we all really liked that one. But I’d say we’re happy with the title. It’s weird to name an album I Love You, It’s Cool, but it’s exactly where the emotional heart of the album lies.
FP: How does I Love You, It’s Cool reflect on you guys at this point in your life?
JS: Well, this is the first time we’ve written a record as a three-piece, and the first time we wrote a record front to back in a relatively short period of time. The album took about six months to write, which is short compared to how long it took to write our previous records. It’s hard to say how it reflects on us, that’s a difficult question to answer.
These songs go through so many different iterations and you just break your ass working on it, and by the time you’re done, you’re unable to see or hear the record as other people might, just because you’ve seen all the guts. I’m sure Dr. Frankenstein felt much differently about his monster, than the terrified townspeople. He had to put that stomach in there, you know? He had to sew those arms on.
FP: [Laughs] That’s a very apt comparison. So the album is streaming on your website, slowed down 400,000x. That’s an interesting concept.
JS: We don’t claim that it’s entirely original; somebody invented the original program to slow down audio without distorting the pitch. It’s not like our stream is that innovative. I like the final product, I think it sounds great. The person who developed that software should get all of the credit. 90 percent of the credit. Half the credit. We get 20 percent of the credit.
FP: It reminds me of what Hans Zimmer did on Inception, that “braaahhmmm” sound was actually the theme equally slowed down. And then somebody did it with a Justin Bieber song. I can see the similarities between Bieber and BIH.
JS: We take a lot of inspiration from Justin Bieber. The way I work the camera when I’m on screen, that’s 100 percent Bieber.
FP: I’ll tell him that next time I see him, he’ll be thrilled to hear that. The new album will be out on Dead Oceans and Hometapes, and the last two were on Hometapes. How is that working relationship?
JS: Oh my, they’re amazing. Adam and I have known the Hometapes people since college, we all went to Savannah College of Art and Design. They’re very serious about keeping a high standards that go into a real, artistic product. They don’t try to cut costs on packaging and all that. They’re also fantastic people. It’s a great working relationship outside of the friendship because of their high artistic integrity.
We’ve been incredibly fortunate, now hooking up with Dead Oceans, it feels like a continuation of the same thing. We’re really lucky to be working with all these people. They run a business, but they never lose sight of what it takes to make a great product. In the industry today, with less money coming in and such, if you lose your artistic integrity, you have shit left.
FP: I completely agree, and I love getting record that the music and the presentation are equally as cared for. For my last question, I must ask: are there bears in heaven?
JS: [Laughs] Well, I personally don’t believe in heaven, so I don’t think I’m the right person to answer that question. But if I did, I would say there would have to be. Where else would they go?
FP: Good point. I would hate to see what bear hell is like. Thanks for your time, Joe. And best of luck these next few months.
JS: Thank you.
Peter Lillis is Assistant Editor of Frontier Psychiatrist. He hopes there are bears in heaven.